Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yoga for Cross Training Young Athletes


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By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Any well-rounded cross training program should include high-intensity cardiovascular work, strength training, stretching, and agility work. Athletes who are in training put a lot of strain on their bodies, which pushes them to the limits each and every day. If they neglect to stretch the muscles after working out, they run the risk of joint or muscle injuries. Yoga can provide that necessary balance within a cross training program. It can also improve athletes' strength, flexibility, coordination, stamina, lung capacity, and more.

Know Your Athlete

Young athletes can train for a variety of sports, from tennis to football. As they become increasingly involved in a specific training program, very often the muscles required for their specific sport become strong. Runners often have tight hamstrings, cyclists build up their quadriceps, and tennis and golf players often favor the arm they play with. This results in a body that is out of balance, which puts the athlete at risk for injuries and strains. Yoga instructors should be aware of the athlete's individual discipline, and then work the areas that are necessary to balance out the body.

Understand Injuries

Some athletes practice Yoga to rehabilitate after an injury. In this situation, they must take it slowly and gently, never pushing too far to irritate the injury or strain. Yoga instructors should ensure the athlete understands that a physical practice can be an effective way to heal, but it is not a miracle cure. It will take time, patience, effort, and practice to help the injury heal.

Sequence

Athletes are often used to rigorous workouts, where competition is inherent. You want to hold the interest of the athlete by structuring the class in a way that allows them to feel successful, strong, and capable. Begin with a few warm-up poses, and then progress to a sun salutation, warrior poses, or other standing poses that will ready the entire body for more flexibility work. Continue with a series of poses that target the hips and hamstrings, as many athletes feel tightness in these areas.

Encourage Mental Focus

A competitive nature often takes precedence when athletes engage in any type of activity. Yoga is a great opportunity to encourage athletes to forgo competition for inner reflection and mental focus. Yoga instructors can teach athletes to focus within as opposed to competing with others during a class. Athletes can also use Yoga time to visualize improved movement in specialized ways, executing particular plays, or achieving individual goals.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hard and Soft of Teaching Power Yoga


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By Faye Martins

As a yoga teacher, you probably see the need for balancing hard and soft techniques in all types of classes.  Some students crave the hard stuff and praise you for it.  Some of the most enthusiastic students disappear to the gentle class down the hall or down the street.  In other words: The love the hard work, but they really don't want it all the time.  You basically have one of the following three choices.

1. Remain physically demanding and hardcore.  Hey, it works for Bikram!

2. Compromise with the students who think you're too tough.

3. Create a balanced lesson plan (hard and soft) that really challenges them, but keeps them coming back for more.

You were probably not prepared by your yoga teacher training for all this flip-flopping.  It seems  as if you're in the political arena trying to make everyone happy.  It's hard to walk the middle of the road, without being assaulted by the left and the right.  No matter what you decide, some students will love you, but some may slither out the door and possibly complain to the front desk on the way out.

Back to Yoga

Power yoga is one of the most widely practiced forms of yogic practice in the world. This modernized version of Ashtanga or vinyasa yoga is meant to emphasis physical health while utilizing the powerful breathing synchronization that characterizes flowing schools of yoga. Coupled with quick moving asana series, breathing techniques work to train bodies in relaxation and letting go.

A power yoga series is typically made up of physically challenging poses, often beginning with a sun salutation series to get the body warmed up. The Power style is considered an eclectic version, so yoga instructors often pick and choose whatever poses fit best into a series, and this gives both the instructor and the student a lot of freedom to make adaptations.

Usually, however, a power yoga session contains a combination of hard and soft yoga. The hard poses are physically challenging and call actively on a student's endurance whereas soft poses are much less active and typically focus on stretching and relaxation.

Beginning

In power yoga sessions, the beginning is chock full of hard poses. Not only is the focus in the beginning on warming up the body, but also the fast moving flow should get students sweating as muscles begin to weary. Poses like sun salutation and warrior are held for a length of time as each posture works related areas of the body.

Middle

Very often in power classes, yoga instructors will repeat several pose series in order to maximize the physical advantages a yogi can obtain during practice. This is a regular practice in fitness activities; exercise trends like circuit training and weight lifting both utilize repetitions to build strength and endurance. Typically in physical styles of yoga, during the second set of repetitions, practitioners focus on deepening the stretches and leaner further into the postures.

End

Balancing the hard and the soft in practice is a challenge that power yoga faces, especially since yogic disciplines are well known for its anxiety and stress-related benefits. Instructors typically work a soft pose series into the last 10 to 20 minutes of a class. This practice serves two purposes. First, following hard yoga with soft poses acts as a cool-down for the body; second, soft yoga practice is an opportunity to further relax the body and mind. Particularly after a strenuous physical workout like hard poses offer, soft yoga techniques emphasize a balanced combination of physical stretching and mental meditative exercises so that students leave their power yoga session feeling physically worked, yet mentally renewed.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Should a Yoga Teacher Know About Relaxation Asanas?


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By Faye Martins

Graduates of yoga teacher training programs should expect to learn many relaxation techniques and the appropriate asanas to match these techniques.  It is true that many classes end in Shavasana, but let’s look at a variety of postures you could guide your students into relaxation with.

Most people who practice yoga begin to see it as a way to total relaxation. The breathing, stretching, and meditating prove to be effective at lightening the spirit and mind, while also exerting the body. Yoga students often incorporate certain yoga poses and breathing techniques into their daily lives to re-energize and release stress. Relaxation techniques are a valuable part of any yoga class. Teachers should use a variety of techniques during class, so students can use them outside of class. There are a number of asanas, or poses, that can aide in relaxation.

Shavasana - Corpse Pose

Corpse pose is commonly used at the end of yoga classes to meditate and relax. It leaves you feeling peaceful, relaxed, and possibly sleepy. Students should lie on their backs, legs slightly apart, arms at their sides. Palms can face up, with the fingers curled. Facial features should remain loose, with the eyes closed and mouth relaxed. Students should focus on their breath, and try not to dwell on any one thought.

Advasana  - Reversed Corpse Pose

Reversed corpse pose is similar to corpse pose, but students lie on their stomachs instead of their backs. Stretch arms up above the head, keeping the palms down. The insides of the elbows will touch the ears. Rest the forehead on the mat, keeping the neck straight.

Jyeshtikasana  - Superior Pose

Superior pose also aides in relaxation and can help relieve spinal cord problems. Students should lie on their stomachs, keeping the legs together, with the forehead resting on the mat. Then, interlace the fingers, bend the elbows, and rest the hands behind the neck.

Matsya Kridasana - Flapping Fish Pose

Flapping Fish pose can relieve a number of ailments, such as constipation and digestive issues, backache, and sciatica. It is also particularly beneficial for pregnant women in the last trimester of pregnancy. Students should begin by lying on their stomachs. Then, move the right leg up, while keeping the left leg straight. Interlock the fingers and rest the right cheek on the hands. Students should try to touch the right knee with the right elbow, but should more importantly find a position that is comfortable.

Makrasana  - Crocodile Pose

Crocodile pose relieves sciatica, pain from a slipped disk, waist pain, or asthma symptoms. Students should lie on their stomachs, and then lift the upper portion of the body up with the elbows firmly planted on the mat. Hands cradle the chin and cheeks for support. The pose can cause tension in the neck and lower back. Relieve the tension by adjusting the elbows.

Truthfully, this is only a small sample of the many relaxation asanas that have been taught to students for thousands of years. Remember that relaxation can be taught at the beginning and end of a Yoga class.  If your classes are always starting and ending in the same way, it’s time to look back into your notes from your original yoga instructor training.  There is more than one way to teach relaxation and this was covered in our foundational training.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.


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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yoga Poses for Relaxation


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By Sangeetha Saran

As a Yoga teacher, you may see the value of relaxation much differently than your students.  During a Yoga instructor training intensive, interns learn the higher values of meditation and relaxation. In every part of the world, there is too much anxiety, stress, and suffering.   

Much of the public's images of Yoga are very relaxing. In their imaginations, they may see an idyllic setting for practicing Yoga; white sand beaches caressed by gentle lapping waves and palm trees swaying in the tropical ocean breeze. The Yoga studio itself may be constructed of gleaming wood native to the region and adorned with only eco-friendly materials. In “real life” our Yoga school may consist of just enough space in our office or on the living room floor to roll out a mat. 

The reality is that many of us practice diligently every day, but we often tend to focus on Yoga practices that are strenuous and challenging in nature. Frequently, the softer, more Yin asanas are skipped over and not valued as highly. However, restorative asanas help to deeply elongate muscles and ligaments that may not be targeted as effectively by a Yang or Power Yoga practice. 

Restorative asanas also help to reduce stress, anxiety and lower blood pressure. Longer holds allow the body and mind to truly relax and let go. Seated forward folding asanas are particularly good for promoting a feeling of introversion, rest and relaxation. Supported Forward Folding Straddle Pose is a wonderfully relaxing Yoga asana that deeply stretches the inner thighs, hamstrings and lower back muscles. 

Supported Forward Folding Straddle Pose

To practice Forward Folding Straddle Pose in a restorative fashion, you will need a Yoga block. If you do not have a block, piling several books on top of each other until the pile reaches a height of six to twelve inches will work just fine. It is most optimal to practice Support Forward Folding Straddle Pose toward the end of your Yoga practice. If you only have time for a short Yoga session today, please warm-up first for ten to fifteen minutes with a series of Sun Salutations. When you are warmed up, come to a seated position on your Yoga mat. 

Spread your legs in a comfortable straddle position. Keep your feet flexed and your toes pointed towards the sky. Place your block or pile of books on the mat in front of you, equidistant from both legs and far enough in front of you so that you can comfortable rest your forehead on the block. With your next exhale, come forward and rest your forehead on the block. Gently extend your arms out in front of you. Hold this pose for ten to fifteen complete breaths. With each inhale, breathe in fresh, revitalizing oxygen.  With each exhale, release the tension of the day. 

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

See our selection of affordable online yoga teacher certification courses, please visit the following link.

If you are a teacher, studio owner, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yoga and the Four Gateways of Speech: Is my Timing Appropriate?


By: Virginia Iversen

The Four Gateways of Speech are four questions that come from the Sufi tradition. These four contemplative questions help to determine the merit of a conversation prior to engaging in the conversation. The Four Gateways of Speech are: Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? Is my Timing Appropriate? By contemplating these questions prior to engaging in a conversation, especially a difficult conversation, you will be able to more clearly ascertain the situation at hand, your own preconceptions about the other person and his or her underlying motives, as well as the ultimate effect of the conversation on both of you. 



As Yogis and Yoginis, we are all striving for greater physical well-being and mental health. Many of us also long for a deep understanding of the divine, in addition to a sense of unification with the divine energy. By choosing to only engage in conversations that are true, kind, appropriate and necessary, we limit negative interactions. We will also be more able to step away from downward spiraling negative conversations and contracted states of being. Physical and mental contraction diminishes our energy, creativity and well-being. 

Take the example of submitting a class proposal to the director of the Yoga studio where you teach. You are very excited about introducing a new style of Yoga to the students at the studio. Surprisingly, you do not hear anything back from the director of the studio, but to your dismay you find out in a few weeks that the class you proposed is on the schedule and is slated to be taught by another teacher! You feel thoroughly demoralized and betrayed. 



According to the Four Gateways of Speech, it is imperative in this situation to pause long enough to determine if your timing is appropriate before you approach the director of the studio. In business, this is absolutely critical to your success as a Yoga instructor. Imagine the director’s response if you approach him or her just prior to teaching a class when there are a number of students within hearing distance. 

Not only will the director being uncomfortable with the students listening to the conversation, he or she will most likely also be angry that you have raised a difficult issue just prior to teaching a class, and in doing so throwing him or her completely off-center. Your chances of a successful, uplifting and productive conversation are much better if you find a quiet time in a private space to approach such a sticky issue with diplomacy, an open mind and a respectful attitude.  

© Copyright 2016 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


If you are a yoga teacher, studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Teaching Yoga for Muscular Balance

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By Faye Martins

When training to become a yoga teacher, how often did you reflect on the complete concept of a "balanced body?"  Many yoga instructors who have had athletes walk into their studios can relate to the difficulties of working with students who have muscular imbalances. Athletes are some of the most common examples of practitioners who turn to yoga because of pain or injuries associated with over-training some muscle groups while leaving their companion muscles weak and undeveloped.

Problems that Result from Muscular Imbalance

Of course, it is not just athletes who are guilty of this. Often, through the course of everyday life, muscles that tend to be used the most will overdevelop and cause injury or pain in the weaker areas. A truck driver who sits most of the day but needs upper body strength to make turns, for example, might suffer atrophy in the legs and hips while building muscles in the core and arms. Sometimes, an injury itself leads to overcompensation. Lower back pain, for example, will cause a person to use abdominal and arm muscle groups to protect the most painful areas of the back. This will lead to further degeneration of the back as unused muscles continue to weaken.

What many people do not realize is that the body uses different muscles to work together to accomplish certain movements. Quadriceps work with hamstrings to push the body to a standing position, and biceps work with triceps to pull a friend up off the couch. Weak hamstrings result in muscular imbalance and require the quadriceps to work harder, putting the body at risk for injury or painful misalignments.

Yoga for Muscular Balance

Yoga poses (asana) are designed to work in balance with each other so that the biceps do not overdevelop while the triceps are ignored. Some yoga teachers focus heavily on doing poses and counter poses while others advocate doing a series of, say, backbends, then poses that neutralize the spine before moving into a series of counter pose forward bends.

A lot of under-developed muscles need stretching, which is precisely what yoga poses offer. This is one of the main physical advantages of practicing yoga for muscular balance, since deep stretches increases a yogi's awareness of his or her body and its areas of strength, weakness and energy.

Advising student that practicing yoga consistently can help correct muscular imbalance through stretching and poses which focus on multiple muscle groups. Yoga is a whole body endeavor, and practicing it also improves the mind-body relationship, which further enables a yogi to achieve muscular balance and physical health. 

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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Friday, May 11, 2012

What Should a Yoga Certification Course Teach About Pranayama?


By Faye Martins 
Pranayama refers to various breathing techniques used during meditation and yoga. When you breathe correctly, the lungs and diaphragm fill up, causing new blood and oxygen to flow throughout the body to the vital organs. Fresh blood to the brain can renew your thoughts and energy levels. Pranayama is an extremely vital part of any yoga teacher training program, because breathing is a vital process of life. A yoga instructor should know the benefits pranayama provides, the foundational techniques, and the safety guidelines associated with each technique. 
Benefits 
Breathing keeps us alive. As we go about our day, our minds become busy with thoughts, tasks, worries, and decisions. We often “forget” to breathe. Most people let their bodies take over, but that results in shallow breathing. Deep, intentional breathing will bring fresh oxygen into the body and help it thrive. Shallow breathing will merely keep us alive, but deep breathing will keep us alive and healthy. Pranayama affects our overall health and wellness, decreases stress and anxiety levels, focuses and energizes the mind, and can cure illness. 
Techniques 
When you are new to pranayama, it helps to have some basic techniques to fall back on. Yoga instructors can teach a few basics to their classes so students can start to create an understanding of pranayma. The first thing students need to know is how to achieve a complete, deep breath. Begin the breath by slowly pulling in air to puff up the abdomen, then the chest, and then gently keep inhaling until you cannot inhale anymore. Let the breath out slowly and controlled. Let students practice several times to get the feel of their entire abdomens and chest cavities filling up with air. It is helpful to place the hands on the belly or chest to feel it rising and falling with each breath. 
Alternate nostril breathing is a common pranayama. Close one nostril by pressing the thumb to it, inhale deeply, then hold the breath for a second or two while releasing the thumb and closing the other nostril by pressing a finger to it, then exhale and repeat. The breath will bring energy and vitality into the body. 
Breath of fire is also a common pranayama that involves pushing the air out through the nostrils forcefully. Each person’s rate of expulsion will differ, depending on his or her experience and capacity. Instruct students to inhale naturally, and then exhale quickly. Students might do about 20 or 30 expulsions at first, and then gradually increase as they gain experience. 
There are many foundational pranayama techniques taught at Yoga certification schools; among them are: Ujjayi, Udgeeth, Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, Brahmari, Dirgha, and Sheetali. Whether you choose an onsite or online yoga school, you will learn these techniques and many more.
Safety 
Advise your yoga students to see a doctor before beginning pranayama practice. Make sure to practice in a place with clean air, free of smoke or other toxins. During class, remind students to relax and not focus too hard on the breathing. If they become dizzy, or breathing becomes laborious, tell them to take a break. Pranayama practice should be slow and gentle.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kids' Yoga for Balanced Education


By Faye Martins

Yoga teachers are always searching for ways to help students’ focus, learn, and engage with academic materials. At the same time, many school teachers become frustrated when the students, "just won't listen," or "can't understand the concepts." Yoga can be a powerful tool for teachers to help students regain their focus throughout the school day. While many teachers are probably skeptical, they might be surprised at the results. Yoga can help students focus on projects, concentrate on new information, and cope with the stresses of learning.

Studies on brain-based learning indicate that learning is a physiological process, involving the entire mind and body. In order for the brain to be functioning at its greatest potential, the body's emotions must be in check and other physiological needs must be met. If you've ever tried to learn something new on an empty stomach, you know the feeling of not being able to concentrate because all you can think about is food. Similarly, students who feel anxious, stressed, unsafe, or bored will not be able to learn.

Yoga gives kids the necessary tools to get rid of any stress, anxiety, or "cloudiness" in the brain. Yoga can be a powerful tool for students and teachers to use during short breaks throughout the day to refresh and re-energize the body and mind. Yoga is convenient because it doesn't require any equipment or a lot of space. Students can stand, sit, or even lie on the floor of the classroom. They can breathe deeply, visualize desired outcomes, or stretch for a physical release of pent-up energy or emotions.

Many schools are finding that yoga is beneficial to students in several ways. Studies have shown that students who practice yoga throughout the school day exhibit more positive attitudes toward life and school, show improved grades and test scores, and can cope with day-to-day stresses and conflicts better. By adding a yoga component to the curriculum, schools will be ensuring a well-rounded education for students. While academics are by far the most important element of children's education, we now know that it can't be separated from emotional and physical well-being.

Yoga in schools teaches kids to be responsible for their own actions and emotions. Yoga promotes self-awareness and the idea that we can control emotions by focusing on the positive aspects of any situation, or by using simple techniques to get rid of stress. It will help kids find peace within them, which can result in motivated, smart, well-adjusted kids ready to face the world.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Can Kids Yoga Help Relieve Stress?


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Kids live active, stressful lives. They attend school, do homework, participate in competitive sports, play video games, and meet their friends at the mall. In addition, they deal with divorce, new schools, tough neighborhoods, illnesses, bullying, and pressure to get excellent grades. Whatever the burdens might be – kids need to learn how to manage stress. Yoga is a practice often cited for helping adults cope with stress. Can Yoga help kids, too?
Positive Results of One Study
According to a 2011 article, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health say: “Yes.” They studied 97 fourth and fifth graders, half of whom participated in a 12-week Yoga program. The researchers found that the students, who practiced Yoga, demonstrated improved overall behavior and ability to concentrate. In addition, the Yoga kids were less likely to ruminate on negative thoughts or engage in a brooding contemplation, often associated with depression and anxiety, than those who did not participate in the Yoga program.
Changing Thinking Patterns
Yoga may help kids on different levels. Practicing physical postures (asanas) can increase the production of endorphins, which generate feelings of well-being. Breathing techniques (pranayama) help regulate the nervous system by activating parasympathetic (relaxation) neurons and calming sympathetic (flight or fight) neurons. Guided relaxation techniques benefit kids by giving them an alternative way to respond to the stressors in their lives. Instead of responding with anger or anxiety, kids learn to relax and breathe through their negative emotions. Yoga students also learn how to manage the mind and perceive stressful situations in a different light. They begin to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Teaching Yoga Life Skills to Children
Teaching Yoga to kids, however, is not like teaching adults. The biggest challenge may be keeping their attention. Songs, music, and games all help keep kids focused on learning Yoga. In addition, kids love to move and make sounds, and they can make noises while in the poses; for example, kids bark while holding Downward Facing Dog pose or squawk while in Eagle pose. The poses help relieve physical stress, while making sounds, which also help to relieve stress on the emotional and mental levels.
Learning Yoga at a young age, can give kids a set of tools for managing stress in a positive way, for the rest of their lives. Non-competitive in nature, Yoga teaches children compassion and collaboration, rather than anger and divisiveness, which are valuable instruments for navigating the stresses of life.
Opportunities for Yoga Teachers
Yoga instructors reach out to many different age groups. If, or when, we decide to teach Yoga to children, we create a positive impact on global society. Children need valuable life skills to progress and cope with an ever-changing world. Children gather in schools, clubs, and sports leagues. It is easy for local Yoga teachers to reach out to these groups and give the next generation skills that will last a lifetime.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
To see our selection of Online Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.
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FREE CONTENT: If you are a Yoga Teacher, Yoga studio, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste!